To augment my musings about My Jewish Day In Berlin, here are other impressions from my trip.
1. Climb and Climb
I climbed a million stairs in Berlin. Probably—I lost count pretty quickly. From the street to my AirBnB apartment was almost 100. Every U-Bahn (Untergrundbahn or “underground railway”) station is at least another 25, more if there is a transfer between lines, which there usually is. My record was day two, when I recorded 13,142 steps by taking the 4-hour Famous Insider Tour, going up and down from the apartment twice more, and walking through two Christmas markets. I’m tired thinking about it all again.
That walking tour was one of the best touristy things I did. I got an understanding of the city’s geography, saw all of the major sites, and learned quite a bit from the guide, including finally understanding how the Russians blocked all of West Berlin necessitating the Berlin Air Lift (the city is entirely within what became East Berlin, making West Berlin an isolated little enclave—similar to how Lesotho is entirely within South Africa).
2. Christmas Markets
Before I left, many people told me about how big of a deal Christmas markets are in Germany. They are full of food vendors selling different kinds of wurst, doughnuts, spiced nuts, chocolate-covered fruits, and hot drinks. All of which are delicious. My favorite was glühwein (hot mulled wine). We need more of this in the US. All of the markets seemed to have the same vendors for both food and gifts, which few people were buying. It seems Germans go to the Christmas markets as a new place to be together and hang out.
3. AirBnB was great
It was suggested that I try AirBnB in a few specific neighborhoods instead of a hotel. This was my first AirBnB stay, and I’ll be back for more. My hostess was lovely and having someone to talk and hang out with made the trip even better. We watched a movie together Saturday night and went to a Christmas market together another night. Being able to cook myself breakfast saved money and time, and ensured I always had exactly what I wanted.
4. There’s Always Time For Chocolate
I took time out of my busy tourist schedule to visit Fassbender & Rausch, which claims to be the world’s largest chocolatier. I don’t know about that, but I do know about the deliciousness that was in my mug. It was like drinking a gourmet dark chocolate bar. Somehow I refrained from buying all of the pastries in the cases.
What also makes the store fun are the Berlin landmarks rendered in chocolate, such as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church). The church, which was mostly destroyed by bombing during WWII (as was almost everything in the city), has been repaired but the spire has been preserved in its damaged state.
5. The Coolest Toilet I’ve Ever Seen
I ventured to Postdam to see Sanssouci Palace and the Neues Palais. (They are situated within a park that has beautiful gardens as well but (1) they aren’t so beautiful in the winter and (2) this turned out to be the one day on which it rained, snowed, sleeted, and hailed. I didn’t linger outside.)
The castles are beautiful and extravagant and worth seeing. In a few years, more rooms will be restored, and the tours even better.
Also worth seeing while in the park is this amazing self-cleaning toilet seat in the Visitor’s Center. This was the only restroom I had to pay to use, and my €0.70 was well worth it. (I thought about shooting a video, but didn’t—thank goodness for YouTube.)
My AirBnB hostess suggested I go to the ballet, which she had just seen. It was an amazing staging of Don Juan with classical technique and modern sensibilities. It was so unusual that I was sure there would be online reviews, but I haven’t been able to find any. So just watch the short video instead. It’s worth it.
I saw a poster for Hinterm Horizont (Beyond the Horizon), a musical with English translation on a screen. You know I love a good musical. It features the music of German rock star Udo Lindenberg and it tells the story of him falling in love with an East German girl while performing there. Seems that never happened, but other pieces of the show historically accurate, such as Udo sending the East German party boss a rocker jacket in 1987. Still, the story was sweet.
The show masterfully incorporated video of the Berlin Wall and historic events, some of which I recognized, but mostly I was guessing at what I was seeing. I am sure they resonated with the Germans in the audience the way images of marchers in Selma or the crowd on the Mall during Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech would with Americans.
7. Lost In Translation
Because not everyone who reads this blog is on Facebook, I’m including this gem. This sign is in every U-Bahn car and along the platforms as well. My first interpretation of it was:
No drinking alcohol.
Riding a horse is permitted.
Because I’ve learned that inserting a lot of photos into a post makes it slow to load and frustrates readers, which I really do not want to do, I’ve created a separate photo album. It also incorporates a few things I haven’t written about here.